Measles is a viral disease that can cause serious illness. It is one of the most contagious diseases.

Symptoms include fever, cold-like symptoms, red eyes, and a spotty rash that can last up to a week.

It can lead to pneumonia, deafness, brain infection and sometimes even death, and can easily spread between people by breathing, sneezing, or coughing.

Your best protection against measles is to get vaccinated. There are three viral infections that the vaccine protects you against: Measles, Mumps, Rubella. This is why it’s called the MMR vaccine.

By getting vaccinated, you will not only be protecting yourself and your family, but you’ll also stop the disease spreading in your community.

Different countries give vaccines at different ages. In New Zealand, two MMR vaccinations are given to babies, one at 12 months of age and a second dose at 15 months.

However, because of changes to vaccination timing, it is possible some people may have missed one or both doses. If your child is over 15 months old and hasn’t had their first or second dose, talk to your doctor, nurse, vaccinator, pharmacist or your local health clinic. It is easy and safe to get catch-up vaccinations.

Everyone born in New Zealand before 2004 is encouraged to check with a parent, caregiver or family doctor to see whether you had both MMR vaccinations as a child. If you missed getting an MMR vaccination, it’s free for everyone under 18 years old. It does not matter what your visa or citizenship status is.

For people over 18 years old, the MMR vaccine is free if you’re a resident, or eligible for free healthcare in New Zealand.

It’s possible you or your family may have had similar vaccinations in your home countries. If you’re not sure, it’s best to play it safe and get vaccinated.

If you’re travelling to a country with known measles cases, you should check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are up to date with MMR vaccines.

If you have a baby aged under one, talk to your healthcare provider about having an early dose of the MMR vaccine to protect them while they are travelling.

Most people can get the vaccine, however those who are pregnant should have the vaccine after the birth of their baby, and those on medication for immune issues should speak to their vaccinator first. It helps if other people in the family or household are vaccinated.

MMR vaccines are free at your local health provider and many pharmacies. The MMR vaccine has an excellent safety record and has been used in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 30 years. It has been reviewed for safety and effectiveness, and is regularly monitored.

The MMR vaccine can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them. Mild reactions are normal and show that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

Some people may get a mild reaction between five and twelve days after immunisation, like a mild fever, rash or swollen glands. Other mild reactions that can happen, usually within one or two days of immunisation, include:

  • headache, a slight fever (feeling hot),
  • nausea (feeling sick), fainting or
  • feeling faint, generally feeling a bit unwell.

If you’re unsure if you’re immune to measles or want to check your vaccinations status from your home country, please talk to your family doctor, nurse, vaccinator, or pharmacist.

For any other information, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. You can also call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116 or visit more information.

Health and wellbeing are some of the most important things for our ethnic communities. In 2022, we ran a series of health events across the country, and you told us that you wanted to learn more about health services available in Aotearoa New Zealand.

So, we partnered with Te Whatu Ora to create a series of videos to help explain what measles is, the symptoms of the virus, and how to protect yourself.


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